Diana guests on the Her Success Story podcast where Ivy Slater interviews gutsy business women as they share their success journey. They chat working with Jane Goodall, early roots in food, beverage, and wellness, access to healthy food, the difference between problem solvers and innovators, the benefits of diversity in a company and more! Tune in. https://wavve.link/hersuccessstory
Gooder Podcast with Thereasa Black
In this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Thereasa Black, CEO and Founder of Amore Congelato, a start-up gelato brand taking a different approach to treats, community and the definition of success. Thereasa takes us on a journey of being a professionally driven single mom finding a way to develop a dessert that her daughter fell in love with, while Tereasa was deployed overseas, to create a new opportunity for her family and her community. Along the way we explore the hurdles of starting a new food brand with no experience in food or frozen desserts, CPG, or retail.
In this episode we learn:
- The genesis and inspiration of Amore Congelato.
- How Thereasa’s military experience influences her decision making and level-headedness.
- How to stay focused on the mission of a company regardless of challenge.
- To always have a real plan B, ( and C).
- How leaning into other people and resources can help at every level of business.
- How to stay inspired when working through unfamiliar situations.
- That the real key to success is balancing work life with personal life.
She leaves us with a word of advice: “Your drive should be the want to achieve your goals.”
About Thereasa Black:
Thereasa Black is an attorney, Naval Officer, and the CEO and founder of Amore Congelato, a company that makes all-natural, nutritious gelato and sorbet that contains zero cane sugar.
In March 2018, a month after she was sworn into the Maryland Bar and a week before her daughter’s 2nd birthday, Thereasa was deployed to Djibouti for a 13-month deployment. This was Thereasa’s 4th deployment, but her first as a mom. Every day away from her daughter was s struggle because her toddler, who believed that Thereasa had dropped her off and moved to a new home, was suffering greatly.
Thereasa knew immediately that she couldn’t deploy again and that returning home and practicing law working 8o hour weeks was also not an option, so she decided to start her own business. She chose gelato in honor of the last food that she and her daughter shared before their long journey apart. Thereasa had made an ice cream cookie cake to celebrate her daughter’s birthday the night before she deployed. It was the first time that her daughter had ice cream and she fell in love with it.
Thereasa decided to make an ice cream that was nutritious so that she would be happy to allow her daughter to eat it. She removed all of the cane sugar and replaced it with a tasty combination of date syrup, agave nectar, and coconut sugar. It has up to 16 essential vitamins and minerals and 24 grams of protein. Now her daughter can enjoy gelato that has more nutrients than kale and Thereasa will never have to leave her side.
Guests Social Media Links:
Amore Congelato: Gelato sweetened with dates, coconut sugar, and agave nectar. Zero cane sugar.
Stacy’s Rise Project: Created to help bridge the funding gap for female founders, Stacy’s Rise Project™ has been connecting and empowering women business owners for years. That’s why Stacy’s is sharing our resources with other female-founded businesses like those founded by these 30 women. Support them by adding their products and services to your cart.
HelloAlice: Step-by-step guides, expert resources, and collaborative communities of fellow entrepreneurs – all for free.
MassChallenge: MassChallenge was founded in 2009 with a singular purpose – to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to launch and grow new ventures.
In the hypercompetitive naturals category, brands define the natural consumer in a very narrow way: rich, suburban, white, educated, able-bodied, and already healthy.
But that overlooks a huge audience of consumers just waiting for these brands to find them.
Naturals brands are tripping over each other to reach the same defined audience. These consumers are fickle, quick to flip from one brand to the next. In other words, companies are fighting with each other and spending tons of money to reach the same volatile market.
If you’re a marketer in this category, we’d like to introduce you to a different group of consumers hungry for your better-than products: low- and middle-income families.
Consumers of Modest Means & Why They Matter to Brands
You may imagine that your prototypical fan is a suburban white mom active on Instagram and into health and fitness. So your better-for-you product might be just right for her. But she doesn’t really need your brand.
Who does? Consumers of more modest means who actually need products that can help them lead healthier lives.
These consumers look different from your model fan. These families are more likely to be of color, disabled, or LGBTQ+. They live in urban or rural—not wealthy suburban—areas, where access to healthy food choices is more limited. There are myriad reasons—financial, cultural, logistical—why these folks think differently about health and wellness than the consumer you’re currently reaching.
Before you dismiss the idea of connecting with them, realize this: While spending power remains concentrated with upper-class shoppers, the middle and lower class represent a far greater portion of the population. As of 2018, 52% of American adults qualified in the middle class and 29% in the lower class. There’s a vast market to be tapped.
And as Emily Brown of the Food Equality Initiative told me in our recent discussion for my Gooder podcast, these consumers are incredibly brand loyal—because their spending habits and budgets don’t allow for shopping around. Once they land on a product or brand their families prefer, they stick with it.
Why Are These Consumers Overlooked?
These folks are out there—why don’t marketers see them?
A big part of it is innate bias in our industry. In the natural food and beverage category, marketing is all about finding your “tribe”—consumers who buy into your brand’s values and see your products as a way to express their affiliation with those values. We assume those fellow tribe members are just like us. We don’t see consumers who don’t look like us, and most of us are white, educated, and reasonably well to do.
The early adopters of natural food and beverage products were a bunch of 1960s and ’70s countercultural hippies who were concerned about the commercialization of food and farming and who advocated for whole, unaltered, healthy food. Then and now, founder-owners of better-for-you companies tend to be entrepreneurs with enough capital to launch, manufacture, and scale a business—and executives and investors in the category are predominantly white and wealthy as well. Our category is a closed-loop.
So what has this navel-gazing approach to product development and marketing yielded?
- High price points for products that aim to benefit people and planet
- Flavor profiles and niche ingredients that aren’t widely appealing
- Exclusive channel strategies that don’t bring products to the consumers who might want them
- An implicit belief that only white suburban folks want to live healthy lifestyles
In short, the naturals industry has evolved beyond the reach of people who are new to the idea of eating whole, healthy foods.
How to Reach Low- and Middle-Income Buyers
Here’s the upside: Naturals brands, with their powerful missions to improve lives, should find it easy—indeed, critical—to reach these underserved audiences. If you’re a thriving naturals brand, you’ve already invested in the consumer education platform of your Brand Ecosystem—it’s the very foundation of your communication strategy. You know how important it is to teach people why your brand matters and what your products can do for them.
Mission and education: Check. So it should be an easy lift to reach out to a broader audience.
A couple of points to think about:
Understand who these consumers are. Shift your research mindset from transactional (who buys what) to empathetic (what do they need in their lives). The right syndicated consumer data exists; you just have to ask for it in different ways. Seek research that shows where, why, and how these kinds of consumers shop. Collaborate with retail partners that have access to that information; they’re also interested in reaching that consumer.
Reach them where they are. Our category shares so much education, but it’s pointed to people who already buy into our brands, not to people who are early in the journey. Don’t ostracize them; welcome them with information that’s helpful to their lives and interests. Same goes for product development. Consumers of modest means may be taking small steps toward eating healthier and may not care about ingredients like kale or chia or Himalayan salt. A baked corn chip may be the ideal option, for example, for the consumer who wants an alternative to fried snacks but isn’t keen on organic vegan lentil puffs.
Get samples into their hands. On a limited budget, a middle-class mom can’t afford to try three different healthy snacks to figure out which one her kids will like. So find ways to get a free trial to her. Once she’s formed a preference for your product, she’ll stick with it.
Get over your high-priced mindset. Leaders in this market attach too much clout to offering an expensive product. Drop the snobbery. The idea that people with restricted income won’t buy is false. When they’re shopping a category where they don’t have a brand affinity, they will buy on price—but if they have a brand preference, they will always spend on that product. They just have to feel a connection to the brand.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a niche product that’s more expensive—but if you’re mission-driven and trying to save people and planet, then your goal should be to go mainstream, expand your market, cost engineer production, and lower your retail price.
Embrace a vision that’s big enough that your goal is to get your product into everyone’s hands. And if you’re not quite sure how to make that happen – drop me a line.
Gooder Podcast featuring Natalie Shmulik
In this episode of Gooder I had the privilege of interviewing Natalie Shmulik, CEO of The Hatchery, a food incubator just outside downtown Chicago. The Hatchery is a powerful initiative that brings a community of innovators along the entrepreneurial path and launches the dreams of owning and running a business to communities that have not traditionally had this access. We learn about the resources The Hatchery provides and how we as a community can provide our expertise, in big and small ways. And why Natalie believes in the power of community.
“Whenever speaking with an entrepreneur, you should always make sure that if you are going to provide feedback or input or a suggestion, that you coach them to believe that the idea was their own.”
In this episode we learn:
* The genesis of The Hatchery and why it is fast becoming a beloved innovation partner to the food and beverage industry.
* The common challenges of budding and small entrepreneurial food and beverage brands.
* Why exciting innovation comes from under-represented entrepreneurial brands.
* About the symbiotic co-learning traditional CPG’s and entrepreneurial brands share in their journey with The Hatchery.
* How coach-ability is a make-or-break trait for leaders and how to vet for coach-ability in your recruiting process.
* How to become a Hatchery brand or partner.
* About Natalie’s trend forecasting super-powers and how it supports The Hatchery’s entrepreneurs.
About Natalie Shmulik:
Natalie Shmulik is The Hatchery’s CEO, and go-to resource for everything food business related. Along with an M.L.A. in Gastronomy from Boston University, she has a wide range of experience working with supermarkets, culinary publications, consumer packaged goods companies, and food service establishments. After successfully operating her own restaurant, Natalie was hired as a specialty consultant for one of Ontario’s largest supermarket chains where she enhanced consumer experiences through educational initiatives. Discovering her passion for innovation, Natalie was brought on as a brand strategist for the first cold brew tea company and later moved to Chicago to run The Hatchery Chicago.
With over six years of food incubation experience, Natalie has gained a unique perspective on the industry and what it takes to launch and grow a successful business. Natalie is a regular contributor to Food Business News, was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune’s 10 Business People to Watch in 2020 and received the Specialty Food Association’s award for leadership in vision. She continues to play a valuable role in branding and marketing for food businesses around the country, with her specialty in trend forecasting.
The Hatchery: A non-profit food and beverage incubator dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs build & grow successful businesses.
ICNC: Industria Council of Nearwest Chicago offers entrepreneurs an innovative community to grow small businesses through incubation, workforce development, neighborhood planning, and business advising.
ACCION: A nonprofit microlender providing small businesses with loans at an early stage, particularly to support those that aren’t bankable yet.